The noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, has already reminded us of the cross-party agreement that committed the Government to implementing the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry. Unfortunately, the Government have not seen fit to commence Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, even though, crucially, alongside the royal charter, Section 40 was designed to incentivise newspapers to join a recognised self-regulator. Yesterday the Government announced a public consultation on Section 40, despite the clear terms of the cross-party agreement.
There will of course be those who are suspicious of the Government’s reasons behind this consultation. Some may even feel that it is designed to give a cloak of respectability to a later decision to go back on the undertakings given and the cross-party agreement reached on Section 40. I do not intend to pursue that line. It is simply very odd for the Government now to commence consultation on whether in effect they should implement their own recent legislation, which was the subject of cross-party agreement, was passed by Parliament, and which still represents the will of Parliament. Is this to be a precedent and to become a feature, with the Government holding regular public consultations on whether they should implement legislation passed by Parliament? Where will it all end?
By the way, I do not share the view that there is not still time to resolve this matter and still ensure the very necessary and vital passage of the Bill within the required time limit. My party, with others, has played a major role in improving it considerably during its passage through Parliament. We will support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, if it is put to a vote. There is no reason not to honour undertakings given and cross-party agreements reached on Section 40.